We are excited to welcome Flo Niedhammer, our latest Brand Warrior for Warrior Addict.
After many years of weightlifting and martial arts training, Flo began his journey into yoga in 2015, discovering yoga is the ideal way to build strength, improve recovery and create body awareness and control. He's had the privilege to learn from the likes of Dylan Werner, Patrick Beach, Linda McGrath and Amber Henzi. His study was started in yin yoga, currently works full-time as an engineer in the Silicon Valley and is on a mission to encourage more men to step onto the mat and recognize that there is a lot more to yoga than stretching.
Flo, you grew up in Germany. Tell us a little bit about your childhood and how you came to live in the US.
So, I'm originally from Germany. I grew up in the city of Stuttgart. It's in the south of Germany, a couple of hours away from Munich. I lived there most of my life and went to school there. I went to college there for my bachelor's in software engineering and also for my master's.
During my master's, I decided to take a break for one year and do an internship in California in the Silicon Valley and so that's how I got to the US. That's how I also discovered yoga, actually in the US and also where I met my wife, during that internship time.
I had to move back after that one year, back to Germany, to finish school. But then after I finished with my master's then I graduated, I got extended a full-time offer here in the US. So it was great to come back to California and work here full-time and also then start to live with my wife.
Let's talk a little bit about your martial arts background. It began with Judo, at the age of six. How did it evolve from there?
I started practicing Judo pretty early at the age of six and I practiced up to 16, so for almost 10 years. Then I stopped in the teenage years. I wanted to do more skateboarding than Judo training. So I started skateboarding every day. I loved it.
Slowly from there, I also started to do weightlifting training and went to the gym. I started to miss the martial arts training and so I started to explore other options and I discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is very similar to Judo. It's a mix of Judo and wrestling. It's mostly all on the ground. I loved that so I did weightlifting and Jiu Jitsu training at the same time.
Then during Jiu Jitsu training, I injured my lower back. I think it was following many years of skateboarding and jumping down stairs and jumping up over obstacles. I injured my lower back and couldn't train anymore, I couldn't really move without pain anymore. So I researched stretching exercises that I could do at home and that really helped me.
I heard of this thing called yoga where I thought they also incorprate these stretches, so I went to my first class here in California. I tried it out and I was surprised. It was one of the hardest things.
Tell us more about your first class, Flo
It was a Sunday vinyasa morning practice and the interesting thing is, now if you go to this class, it's packed. It's 20, 25 people, it's a small studio. But that day, somehow it was only two people - it was just me and my wife. So that's how we met, at my first yoga class.
So on that Sunday, she was there, I was there. We started talking, of course. After class, we hung out a little bit, had coffee and breakfast and everything. That's how we met.
But it was only her and me. It's my first class and she has been practicing for a while. So I was sweating and it was so hard for me to just hold Warrior Two with the arms up. I looked over at her and I thought "Man, she's not even sweating, but I'm sweating so much." It was very brutal for me. I was surprised. I thought I was strong from lifting weights, many years of weightlifting, but I was really surprised that my own body weight could be such a good workout for me.
So it started for me with the physical, with just wanting to heal, getting rid of injuries and starting to move again. But then I discovered there is so much more behind those poses that we do on the mat. There is so much of the breath and it will take you to a place where somehow the voices in your head are a little bit more quiet. I discovered that in my first practice. I realised "Okay, there is something more to it. I really like it."
So I continued. I went to more and more yoga classes. I also started to develop my own practice at home. After a few years, maybe one or two years, then I stopped lifting weights and so I transitioned to only doing yoga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
You're very, very passionate about getting more men onto the mat. What advice would you give to men who are thinking about giving yoga a try?
I would say just start. Just go to a studio. Grab a mat, maybe a friend's mat, and just go to a studio and give it a try. I think what's holding men back a lot is expectations of what's going to happen in that class and also I think ego is a big part of it, too.
There are mostly women in classes so guys often think, "Oh, no, those women, they're so much flexible, stronger. I don't want to look like I'm weak or anything," so there's a lot of ego involved.
I think it's important to just go and just start. Give it a try. If there's no studio in your area or you really don't want to go, it's also good to try it out at home. There's a lot of content online and you can practice at home. Give it a try.
Flo, please can you leave us with some words of wisdom?
I believe that the body benefits from movement and that the mind benefits from stillness. So having a practice that we do both of those things is the path to happiness and peace and, ultimately, to your true self.
For more informtion about Flo, including links to his social media pages, click here